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Young Outdoorsman Is Gone But Hardly Forgotten

Caney, Kan. — Garrett Battige would have loved this.

One by one, pickup trucks rolled up to the Caney Valley Recreation Center, fishermen reached into tubs filled with water and pulled out huge catfish. The crowd cheered and rushed to take pictures. And Marion Kincaid and Mark Shull, the stars of the “Mudcats” television show that features Oklahoma noodling (hand fishing for catfish), posed for pictures and signed autographs after weighing in their fish.

For months, Garrett, a 13-year-old from Copan, Okla., who was suffering from a rare form of brain cancer, had been looking forward to being a big part of this tournament fund-raiser set up by two of his friends. But he didn’t make it that long.

Garrett died May 5, just 13 days before the two-day event took place.

So the tournament that was set up to buoy Battige’s spirits and help his family pay his medical bills became more of a memorial.

“Garrett was so excited about being here,” said Sid Smith, 14, who lives in Caney, a town in southeast Kansas near the Oklahoma state line. “He couldn’t wait to fish with the ‘Mudcats’ team, and he wanted to bring in a huge catfish.

“We were shocked when he died before he could even make it here. It was really sad.

“But we had to go on with the tournament in his honor. The family still has a lot of medical bills, and we wanted to help.”

The tournament was the brainchild of Chance Brake, 16, and his close friend Sid. They live in the Caney area and are better known as the BS Boys. They became local celebrities when they got an unexpected response after posting videos of some of their hunting and fishing trips on YouTube.

They got so many hits that they decided to set up an outdoors series on the Internet featuring everything from fishing for big cats to hunting for trophy whitetails.

They heard about Garrett and contacted him through Facebook. When Chance and Sid found that Garrett had a passion for the outdoors just as they did, the three hit it off and started spending time together hunting and fishing.

That came to an end when Garrett’s condition worsened and he was unable to get out anymore. But Chance and Sid wanted to do something to help. So they organized a benefit tournament in which each team could fish anywhere in the area and bring their four biggest catfish to the scales.

By the time the weigh-in got started, spectators from several area towns had gathered to get a look at the big cats. Among them was Battige’s family, which showed up in support of the BS Boys’ kind gesture.

“How many times do you see boys this age do something that is so caring?” asked Beth Battige, Garrett’s mother. “They set up everything from the weigh-in to the raffle.

“They know we’re still grieving, but this means a lot to us. You’ll find very few young men who have the heart that they do.”

The 19 teams of fishermen also were aware of the special purpose of this tournament.

“We were really hoping to have Garrett along with us today,” said Kincaid, who lives in Peru, Kan. “But I think he’s with us in spirit.”

The big catfish and the BS Boys’ videos were only sidelights to what this event was all about.

“We did this for Garrett,” Chance said. “I wish he could have been here with us today.”

Kincaid, Shull and Luke Fogarty brought in 68 pounds of catfish and finished second in the tournament. But the team that attracted the most cheers - Josh, Rick and Nicole Langley of Dewey, Okla. - had a winning total of four cats weighing 126 pounds. The crowd oohed and aahed when they pulled a 32-pound flathead from the tank in the bed of their pickup. The response got even louder when they wrestled a 48-pound catfish out of the makeshift livewell.

“We caught the big one on a trotline, the other one on rod and reel,” Josh Langley said. “We fish the Caney River quite a bit, and we knew it had some big cats in it.

“We’ve caught bigger ones. But to bring two nice-sized flatheads in during a tournament, we knew that was going to give us a good shot at winning.”

In a region known for its big catfish, winning was no small task. Elk City, Fall River and Toronto lakes along with the Neosho River in southeast Kansas and Copan Lake and the Caney River just over the state line in Oklahoma all are known for their big catfish.

“A lot of people down here love to go for catfish,” Sid said. “When we did a video on fishing for big cats, we got a lot of hits.”

But for the moment, the big catfish and the BS Boys’ videos were only sidelights to what this event was all about.

“We did this for Garrett,” Chance said. “I wish he could have been here with us today.”

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©2013 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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